Z-Chen Chang's new album needs more distinctive material; French pianist Lucas Debargue breaks prodigy mould

Malaysian singer Z-Chen Chang's last studio album of original material, In Love With... (2011), still lingers on my mind with his moving take on the ballads Invaluable Advice and Met Too Soon, both of which were penned by Percy Phang.

Bruises, the opening track from the new album, also composed by the Johor Baru-born, Taiwan-educated Phang, is not quite as effective. Listen instead to the bruising emotions of Walk Away, composed by Zheng Yujie, who was also behind the title track of Rainie Yang's 2016 album Traces Of Time In Love: "I walk away, carve my memories into a memorial/I walk away, break free of these surging tears."

The following Fight For Love, music and lyrics by Phang, offers a welcome change of pace and a more pro-active stance: "If you really love someone, you will fight for love."

On the whole, though, 18 is less memorable than his earlier effort. Maybe Chang needs to fight for more distinctive material.

Boon Chan


Lucas Debargue, 27, was the young French pianist at the centre of controversy in the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition when he was shunned by the jury for the top prize, taking only fourth place in the final standings. His cause celebre was rewarded with these two recital recordings, issued by Sony Classical in quick succession.

  • ASIAN POP

  • 18

    Z-Chen Chang

    Ocean Butterflies Music

    3/5 stars

  • CLASSICAL

  • LUCAS DEBARGUE PLAYS SCARLATTI, CHOPIN, LISZT & RAVEL

    Lucas Debargue

    Sony Classical 88875192982

    4.5/5 stars

    LUCAS DEBARGUE PLAYS BACH, BEETHOVEN & MEDTNER

    Lucas Debargue

    Sony Classical 88985341762

    5/5 stars

A unique talent far removed from the usual mould of child prodigy and conservatory-trained product, he began playing the piano at the late age of 11 and received formal tutelage just four years before this unexpected "triumph".

The first disc is an artist's calling card, filled with competition fodder such as Liszt's Mephisto Waltz No. 1, Ravel's Gaspard De La Nuit and Chopin's Ballade No. 4, all dispatched with relative ease. More telling is the extraordinary sensitivity displayed in four varied Scarlatti Sonatas and Grieg's Melody (from Lyric Pieces).

The second disc is a personal manifesto, beginning with utter clarity in Bach's Toccata In C Minor and the unexpected choice of Beethoven's early Sonata In D Major (Op. 10 No. 3), with each of its vastly disparate four movements bravely etched out in stone.

The piece de resistance is Medtner's rarely heard Sonata In F Minor (Op. 5), where dark vistas and contrapuntal sophistication are melded with an irresistible vividness that is totally absorbing. Here is a name to watch.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe